Every parent wants only this for their children, that they be happy, well-adjusted, reasonably successful adults. It might not seem like much but as we all know, it's a lot harder than it sounds. Most adults are not all of these things, yet we try raising children to have those things we do not necessarily have ourselves.
A couple of recent items have been brought to my attention that have solidified this ideal for me. One is the tragedy that occurred yesterday involving a young mother, her 8 month old baby and the baby's father. The needless deaths of the women and her child and the injuries sustained by the father could, it now appears, have been prevented.
It seems likely that the young woman suffered from Post Natal Depression. This is a serious condition affecting a larger majority of the population than figures indicate. Many will go undiagnosed (as this particular woman did) and will suffer through unaware that it is treatable, de-stigmatised and while not common, is not rare either. This person was unfortunate in that she was a single mother, separated from the father of her child, so was possibly thinking that being alone while raising a child was her only problem. Nobody witnessed her pain as the neighbours said they never met and rarely saw her. She was isolated by circumstance and also, to some degree, by choice, which left her even more vulnerable to this.
After giving birth to all three of my children I had to attend a 6 week check-up for mind and body. This entailed asking me a series of questions regarding my mental health and reminding me that having the 'baby blues' is very common but if the symptoms are strong, last a while and I feel 'out of control' I possibly would have PND. I was lucky and only felt 'lost' for the first few weeks. My entire family, especially my partner, were very supportive in that time and I did not ever feel isolated or alone in my journey.
I have always wondered about the consultation with the nurse though and felt that my partner, mother or other support people should also have been asked these questions. At times I know that a new mother is not comfortable telling people how frustrated she is, how angry she sometimes gets, how tearful she often is. Another observer would be just as aware of behaviour anomalies and might be a good person to ask. Surely a second 'opinion' is not a bad idea. At risk are the children, who are faultless, the mother who gets overwhelmed by guilt, anger, frustration and the enormity of her task, unaware she is not alone in her feelings, and the lives of all those around them who may, like the father of this baby, have to face the loss of their child.
There must be a better way to diagnose and help these women than those which currently exist. They are very good, but obviously are not doing enough.
Last night on the news a story about the football player who ran over his 15 month old boy in his driveway was shown. His child is expected to make a full recovery with no outward effects expected from his horrific injuries. That is fantastic news.
The parents were arguing their opinion that all driveways should be fenced off from houses to help prevent this from occurring. Apparently over the course of a year, an average of 40 children are run over in driveways in Queensland alone.
This astounded me. Not because I have no idea how it could happen but because this statistic is not given more priority. I am fully aware that children are fast, unthinking and fearless, so that this happens at all is of no real suprise to anyone with children. Most people I know have reverse sensors, worry about the prospect of this happening and sometimes get out of the car to double check before driving away.
Is there an answer to this one though? Probably not. Children run fast, so reversing sensors are of no use, they have no concept of the danger posed so education is probably not going to be effective (especially for a 2 year old) and fencing off a part of your yard will only work if you also install child locks on all gates, make sure they stay closed and warn all visitors. Probably not the most practical idea.
Our children are our first priority until they can fend for themselves (and I am unsure when that happens as I am still guilty of calling my mum to ask for advice!) but cottonwooling ( I know it is not a word) is not the answer. Children will break bones, scrape knees, gather bumps on heads, eat dirt and get up and go again. They will defy all of our sanitising of houses and jump in the first muddy puddle they see. It's what they need, it's how they explore their environment.
I know people who have blocked off parts of their houses with millions of child gates and put child-proof everything, everywhere. These kids have still had worms, head-lice, rashes and spots. Probably more than kids who have been exposed to dirt and dust bunnies.
The answer to everything is a very simple, but time consuming one, watch your kids. Be aware of the dangers they face, but not frightened for them, expose them to the world, but keep them close by, and do not make the mistake of thinking you can prevent everything bad from happening to your precious babies. We are, after all, only human.
There is an organisation running in Cairns and Innisfail (I think even to Townsville) that is one I admire and support and would like you to support also. It is called 'Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids' and they do one very extraordinary thing. They collect items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, torches, clothing and old backpacks and make up 'care bags' for those who are temporarily, or permanently, entering foster care.
These kids often do not have time to pack a bag of belongings when they are taken from a poor environment so turn up on doorsteps without a thing of their own. Children need a sense of purpose and a feeling of confidence in order to thrive. Having nothing in your hand and entering a new house must be horribly disheartening and they must really struggle to find a sense of themselves.
The backpack idea is a brilliant one, started in Innisfail by Des, a women who cares for foster kids and was aware of the need for this to happen. The torch in the bag is for nights when the children wake and can't remember where they are, or the layout of the home. This part in particular really struck me as being brilliant and could only have been thought up by someone this aware. Baby bags are also made up, with bottles, nappies etc. Each bag holds two days worth of clothing and each also has an activity book and pencils or a stuffed toy or something similar.
I will include contact details below for anyone interested in supporting this initiative. I strongly urge you to do so, it's a great one!!